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Update: apparently, the site is back on!

Now for the previous content:

  With sadness I found out that Z-Library, a web site filled with (pirated) free books and science papers has been shut down by FBI, in collaboration with Argentina, Amazon and Google. Strange how much effort can be done to close down sites with actual information on them.

  Not unexpected, the site operators were Russian, Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova, and were apprehended in Argentina by local forces, although it's not clear if they will be extradited to the U.S. or not. We know from numerous examples that the American government is terrified of technical people with access to information and the ability to disseminate it and banks on making examples of them as much as possible, so while I am rooting for them, I doubt the two will ever be truly free every again.

  The investigation was of course helped by Google and Amazon, but it's pretty clear that the duo did not use any smart way of protecting their identity. Apparently, they just got too annoying and were crushed as soon as the will to stop them materialized.

  It is not clear exactly if all of the Z-Library team have been identified and stopped. Perhaps the web site will surface once again. For certain, some alternative will pop up sooner or later as books are small and easy to share.

  Z-Library has started as a clone of Library Genesis, another similar site, but it had gotten clearly bigger and better. Too big for its own good. 

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  There is this feeling in the online community that no matter what governments and corporations do, we will find ways of avoiding restrictions and remain free. Nowhere is this feeling stronger than in the media and software piracy circles. Yet year after year people get more and more complacent, moving from having to find and download the content they enjoy to streaming services that end up asking for more money than TV and cinema combined, moving from desktop games to mobiles, switching from software you own to software you subscribe to and lease. And every year more and more "hydra heads" get cut and none grow back.

  Today we say goodbye to, a web site that provided a free archive of hundreds of anime show torrent/magnet links which were subtitled in English. "You could technically say COVID killed HorribleSubs.", the notice on the web site now says. If you think about it, it was difficult to understand how the site survived for so long, when my blog was closed for showing a manga image taken from Google and a YouTube video after a copyright request from Japan. How could these guys maintain a directory of almost every popular anime and get away with it? But they will be missed, regardless of the real reason for their disappearance.

  It's hard to say how this will affect people. TorrentFreak hasn't even written something about it yet. Will this mean that less translated anime will be available? Or maybe even make it harder to find anime at all? It's a shocking development... Hail Hydra!

  I've just read a medical article that seems to be what we have been looking for since this whole Covid thing started: an detailed explanation of what it does in the body. And no, it didn't come from doctors in lab coats, it came from a supercomputer analysing statistical data. Take that, humans! Anyway... First of all, read the article: A Supercomputer Analyzed Covid-19 — and an Interesting New Theory Has Emerged. And before you go all "Oh, it's on Medium! I don't go to that crap, they use a paywall!", know that this is a free article. (also you can read anything on Medium if it seems to be coming from Twitter)

  Long story short (you should really read the article, though) is that the virus binds to the ACE2 receptors - and degrades them, then tricks the body to make even more ACE2 receptors (even in organs that normally don't express them as much) to get even more virus in. The virus also tweaks the renin–angiotensin system  which leads to a Bradykinin storm which causes multiple symptoms consistent with what is seen in hospitals and leaves many a doctor stumped: dry cough, blood pressure changes, leaky blood vessels, a gel filling one's lungs (making ventilators ineffective), tiredness, dizziness and even loss of smell and taste. Also, because of a genetic quirk of the X chromosome, women are less affected, which also is shown in statistical data on severe cases.

  Quoting from the article: several drugs target aspects of the RAS and are already FDA approved to treat other conditions. They could arguably be applied to treating Covid-19 as well. Several, like danazol, stanozolol, and ecallantide, reduce bradykinin production and could potentially stop a deadly bradykinin storm. Others, like icatibant, reduce bradykinin signaling and could blunt its effects once it’s already in the body.

  Good stuff, people! Good stuff! The person responsible for this is Daniel A Jacobson and his research assistants should take all the credit! Just kidding.

  But how new is this? Bradykinin is not an unknown peptide and we have known from the very beginning what ACE does and that Covid binds to it. My limited googling shows doctors noticing this as soon as the middle of March. In fact, the original article that the Medium article is based on is from July 7! Here is a TheScientist take on it: Is a Bradykinin Storm Brewing in COVID-19?

  For more info, here is a long video talking about the paper: Bradykinin Storm Instead of Cytokine Storm?


  If you really are into medicine, check this very short but very technical video about Bradykinin, from where I also stole the image for this post: Bradykinin | Let the Drama begin!


  I hope this provided you with some hope and a starting point for more research of your own.

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I wasn't going to discuss this, but I am being assaulted from all sides by people who have on opinion or another on the Google "Anti diversity manifesto", how the media likes to call it, spread at Google by an employee and his subsequent firing right afterwards. So I will say a few words, but not about the content of the document, only on the reaction to it.

Let's be honest here, what happened was that someone criticized the way things are at Google and then he got fired. He did it in a whitepaper-like document in which he exposed his opinions on what he perceived as problems and possible solutions. I believe his biggest mistake was not substantiate his opinions with previous research, thus dispelling some of his beliefs and strengthening others as fact, but that's beside the point. You can read the document, as well as the response from the Google's new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, whatever that means.

James Damore, the employee who wrote the memo, was fired for violating the company's code of conduct by "perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes". What I want to focus on is that the response of Google was based on the fact that they couldn't possibly assign people to work with this guy, once he said something that was controversial, potentially offensive. By logical extension, no one can express something controversial in the company. Would you like to work there? They see it as something positive. The legalese for that is Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws. What started as an open discussion, ended abruptly by termination, the employment equivalent of a death sentence for dissension. A personal equivalent would be "if you think like that, then we can't be friends anymore".

While the decision makes sense in the short run, in the long run it only hurts Google, both on a mediatic level and a financial one. However right or wrong, the author of the paper wanted to solve something he saw as problems in the company. I would want that type of person to be part of my company. And if the problems he sees are artificial, I would like to think I would try to convince him of that before firing him. Of course, Google doesn't have to do anything, because what they did is legal, but I am not talking about anything legal here. I am talking about companies having to take care about all their employees, not only the ones they like.

Personally, I wouldn't like to work in a place where I would need to guard my every word, hide my opinions and my thoughts, for fear of crossing some general line or code of conduct. I wouldn't like to work in a place that couldn't care less about me as a person. And if I were to work in such a place (ahem!) then I would create a narrative that would protect my fragile psyche, something like "they would never do that!". Well, Google did it! In a very public and bland and careless way. This will only give strength to the other narrative, the one of the former employees, released from their very strict NDAs, who complain about the same things Damore was fired for trying to solve in the first place.

Now, don't you miss the times when Microsoft was the bad guy?

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Yesterday, a CBS original announcement was published stating that a new Star Trek series will be produced to be released in 2017! Yes! Finally! However, I am not all enthused about this. The news item is doing nothing more than promote a generic product. It's like saying "We are going to release the newest detergent brand in 2017" without saying what makes it special or what it is supposed to clean. The entire announcement is about the old Star Trek, the 50 year anniversary (or the 47th of it's cancellation, I guess... morons!) and how the people who wrote the worst Star Trek films yet are on board for it. At least J.J.Abrams is not in. They basically are advertising "Generic Star Trek series. Get you space ship high at the lowest cost in our store".

Yes, I do have a problem with the Kurtzman/Orci team. Take a look of the filthy trash made for the lowest common denominator that they have worked on: Hercules and Xena, Alias, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow, Scorpion; all shows that look interesting, but have no story, no substance, no end. You just watch them for watching's sake, on fast forward, hoping you will see a fun monster or to see how an episode ends. They also worked on the new Star Treks, which personally I disliked with a vengeance.

I mean, look at the announcement. A generic Star Fleet symbol in a shiny, misty light and a text saying nothing. You know what says something? The "Shop" section in the right, where you can already buy T-shirts and Spock ears.

Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Orci, if you are reading this, please, pretty please, prove me wrong. Show me some light in the pit of cynicism that I fell into. Demonstrate to the world that you are still in it for the stories, for the emotion, for the fun, not just for the money. Make this great concept and then you can say "Ha, Siderite! You're just another moaning critic on the faceless web and you don't know what you are talking about!"

Rumors about a new Star Trek series have appeared and died many times, but the most recent and believable ones stem from March this year, where two pitches seem to be favored: a Michael Straczynski and Bryce Zabel complete reboot, which is highly unlikely, and a further in the future Federation story, where the entire quadrant is at peace and complacent and has to jolt back to action after a surprise new enemy attack. This one seems likely to me for many reasons: Picard is way too old to play any significant role, so is Kirk, while all other attempts at heroic leaders have misfired. CBS doesn't have the guts to make the captain or even the entire vessel alien, so the captain will be a human, like always, and they already went through the phases of black captain, female captain, young captain. Therefore they need a completely new human captain, one that is again a rebel white male and navigates the ship through the moral labyrinth created by alien concepts, which are veiled concepts from other non Western countries. Also, the complacent peaceful empire attacked from outside seems connected to the political reality of the present, which is a constant in the successful Star Trek series.

I don't know how I feel about this. I felt that Star Trek was best when there was no arch enemy in the mix. Next Generation was without question the best Star Trek series ever made and it wasn't based on the war of the Federation with anyone. There were new crises and skirmishes all the time and aliens with long term aggressive intent like the Borg, but the show was never about the war. Deep Space 9 was also like that, until they entered the Dominion War phase, and nobody cared about it much. Enterprise failed terribly with its ridiculous time war, while Voyager started well, then collapsed under the stupid idea that the show needed to be about a strong female character, and therefore they created strong male enemies for her to defeat. Ha, in a way, Voyager's end - the defeat of the Borg Queen - showed not only how stupid it is to try to put females in charge just for the sake of political correctness and no other plot related reasons, but it showed it twice, and then both died at the end, saving the Universe from the great PC threat :) The original series of Star Trek was also not about a specific war and people remember it fondly because of that, regardless of the silly budget and production values. However, that doesn't mean this Star Trek: Federation thing couldn't work. Because it would be anchored in the present, they would always have some ideas on how to go on without having to pull concepts out of their ass while stoned. People would empathize with one side or the other, which I believe to be crucial: paper villains always make bad shows.

There is, of course, the possibility that the new show would be a completely different idea. Perhaps the Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy series that I am expecting for so long, just because it is the last stage of a franchise: adolescent audience, adolescent actors. But the ideas could be fresh as well: think Star Trek meets Harry Potter via Ender's Game (or even better: Fisherman's Hope).

So here is my pitch: a well aged alien teacher is training a class of young cadets, too young to do anything, mind you, except learn. While on a training mission with a shitty training ship, they encounter an unexpected situation, one that requires study, for the survival of the Federation. Notice that I didn't define this as "an enemy", but just something that needs to not fall into adversary hands, perhaps, something that would help the Federation, but would threaten it in the hands of anyone else. Unable to communicate or return, the old teacher must become a captain to his students and solve the situation through ingenuity and hard work. Instead of Spock, Data, 7 of 9 as a counterpoint to the human captain, the captain is now utterly non human, the alien voice of reason, while the entire crew of kids would be a young virile emotional counterpoint to the cold calculation of their captain. It would be controversial because it would also put children in situations where children should not be put, making every experience in every episode a coming of age thing, changing all the characters as the show progresses. They would be the rebels, the bringers of new ideas, the brave bodies and minds that would employ unexpected tactics to achieve their task, but also the stupid kids that die needlessly, that put others in danger, that get physically and psychologically abused.

It would be also anchored in the reality of the moment, because it would touch subjects like teaching methods, the way adults often dismiss or discredit the young, the stupidity and beauty of said youth, the traps they fall for and the people who want to take advantage of their untrained minds and souls. It would also bring god damned sexuality in a show that always looked like made for people that are 50 years old. It would have a political side as well, since the reasons why a discovery cannot be shared because it is too powerful, but should not be destroyed because it is knowledge, will always be controversial.

Oh, dear, I knew that writing a Star Trek post would just never end. Perhaps I should start ST fiction and be done with it. I hope my Star Trek reader fans have enjoyed this and that the rest were not utterly bored. Can't wait for 2017! Perhaps if I would run really fast towards the sun...

In this post I want to talk to you about new stuff that links to the good old stuff of our own youth. You probably know what Kickstarter is, but just as an introduction, it is a place where people ask for money for future work. It's like a crowdsourced financing scheme for your public elevator pitch (just imagine a planet-sized elevator, though). And when I say Kickstarter, I mean the actual site and all the other similar things out there. Like... Kickstarter-like, like it?

First stop: Underworld Ascendant. The team that made Ultima Underworld, one of my all time favourite games, is doing a new one. As you can see on the Kickstarter page, it is two weeks from completing. If you loved the Ultima Underworld games (NOT the Ultima games), you could consider pitching in.

Second stop: Hero-U. Remember Quest for Glory? It was made by Sierra Games and the entire series was awesome! However the designers of the game are the Coles. They have been working on Hero-U, a modern version of the QG universe. They planned to release in the spring of 2014, but scope creep and public feedback turned the game from a simple little game to a complex and interesting concept that is planned for release in the autumn of 2015 and it is well on schedule. Check it out! They are at their second Kickstarter round.

Turning to movies and series, this time works made by and for Star Trek fans. And I am not even talking about random people doing really weird and low quality stuff, I mean real movie business people doing great stuff. Check out Star Trek Continues, a continuation of the original Star Trek series, as well as Star Trek Axanar, which seems to become a really cool movie! I can't wait for it to get out.

Update June 27th 2016:
The Axanar story has become a poster for corporate greed and stupidity. Soon after the trailers for Axanar were released, Paramount and CBS - the corporations owning the Star Trek franchise - sued the producers on copyright infringement. Funny enough, they did this before anything real was released. Their problem? The production was too big.

Having received more than 1.2 million US dollars from Kickstarter, the show was actually starting to look great. Top production qualities, professional actors, good CGI and - most of all - passionate people. Paramount and CBS alleged that this was already a commercial venture, having such budget, even if it was released freely on the Internet after production. To me, it feels as if Hollywood started to feel the heat. They realized that if this production and distribution model catches on, they will be left trying to combat piracy and hiring armies of lawyers to arrange and check distribution contracts when "the opposition" will just release free on the Internet once the budget for production is met. Consider the implications! This would be huge.

It felt like entrapment. First you let legions of people use the Star Trek moniker and universe, then you jump with a lawsuit on the people that make the most money. So the studios started to try to deflect the anger and consternation of fans and independent producers with dirty tricks like instructing J.J.Abrams to say in an interview that the lawsuit would go away, only for it to continue anyway and finally, with a set of guidelines for independent productions to which the studios would not object. The terms are ridiculous and pretty much break the entire concept of serialized Star Trek. More here, check this out: “The fan production must … not exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”

A long time ago I wrote a post about Vodo, what I thought was the future of cool little indie movies and series. Vodo didn't quite live to my expectations, but Kickstarter has taken its place and, since it is not only about movies, but all kinds of projects, it has a larger chance of surviving and changing the way the world works. Not all is rosy, though. There are voices that say that the Kickstarter ecosystem is more about promises than about delivery. Also some governmental and commercial agencies are really displeased with the way money are exchanged directly between customers and producers, bypassing borders, intermediaries like banks and tax collectors and so on. If you combine this with Bitcoin type currency, their job of overseeing all commercial transactions and taking their cut does become more difficult. I sympathise... not really.

I leave you with some videos of the projects above. Think about looking for others that are working on something you want to sponsor. You might be surprised not only by the ingenious ideas that are out there, but also about how it would make you feel to support people with the same passions as yourself.

Underworld Ascendant trailer:

Game play for Hero-U:

The full first episode of Star Trek Continues from the creators themselves:

Prelude to Axanar, a small mockumentary about the events that will be the context of Axanar:

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You may have heard of the recent scandal about Internet leaks of nude or personal photos of female celebrities. Dubbed "The Fappening", a word play on the (horribly bad - my opinion) movie The Happening and the term "fap", which refers to masturbation, it is a huge collection of pictures that seem to have been taken by the celebs themselves or by close acquaintances in private surroundings. You know... selfies. They were obviously obtained through some underhanded methods and published in several waves, three at the moment. I am not here to give you torrent links to the leaked material, even if they are fairly easy to find, instead I am going to talk about the general reaction, as proven by seed/leech ratios of torrent downloads: after an initial boom in interest, the updates have been less and less interesting to people. Why is that?

At first I hypothesized that the vehement reaction of the media was part joining in the fray, like sharks smelling blood, and in their own way pointing people to search the net for the photos (yeah, I don't really believe in the difference between mentioning something that is easy to find and a link), but also because this affair was an obvious attack on the brands that the celebrities are standing for. Nobody really cares about how some of the actresses in this situation are actually acting if they look hot enough and also, very important, how unattainable they are. The reaction of the agencies that invested a lot in these brands was expectedly violent. However, there is another factor, one that I think makes it all meaningful to discuss: people expected something completely different from what was provided. No matter how much we understand the media processes involved in creating a celebrity personality, we don't really (emotionally) believe that it is happening or we don't understand the extent of the effort. Indeed, when people downloaded the pictures and guiltily and excitedly started to look at the images, they found out... real women. Without the expertise of professional photographers and without the extensive post processing and media censorship that occurs after the pictures are taken, the celebrity females that we collectively idolatrized appeared as less than goddesses and as just normal people, with zits and saggy tits and all that. Even if they look fabulous, like some of them do, the amateurish manner of the way the pictures were taken give little pleasure. Indeed, the only pleasure that can be extracted from this is akin to rape: they wanted to cheat, to show us just the Photoshopped images of themselves, but we showed them! We took what we wanted.

Look at the torrent statistics though. The October collection of pictures is at the top, over Fappening 2 that has more seeds than Fappening 3. People lost interest: they were curious, downloaded the stuff, then they didn't follow through with the rest. All because they were getting something other than they had bargained for. Instead of pictures showing more of the beautiful women we yearn for, they showed enough to make those women feel terribly human. The breasts, the asses and all the other hidden skin was hidden not because they were something amazing to hide, but because the myth was more beautiful and sexy, perfect in its imperfect sharing. It raises important questions that I believe to be worth exploring: what are we really falling for? What is beauty: just a branded illusion? Why do girls appearing fully clothed and smiling in a music video or a movie seem more desirable than the fully naked and active girls in porn films? Are we really interested in the "reality show" of someone's intimacy, or do we, really, secretly, want these people to show us only the beautiful parts, to make us believe that perfect people exist? Are we all victims of a global romcom? And who is it that is laughing at the comedy aspect of all this?

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In this post I will try to bring to your attention something that will probably change the world significantly. In 1909, German chemist Fritz Haber successfully fixed atmospheric nitrogen as ammonia in a laboratory and five years later a research team from BASF, led by Carl Bosch, developed the first industrial-scale application of the Haber process, sometimes called the Haber-Bosch process. Ammonia is extremely useful for many applications, the least of each is gunpowder and explosives and one of the most important is fertilizers. Without the Haber-Bosch process we probably wouldn't have the Green Revolution.

So today I found this article in Ars Technica that says that Researchers have developed a method to produce ammonia starting only with air and water. Not only is it more energy efficient than the century-old Haber-Bosch process that’s currently in use, but it’s also greener. The article goes on to say that almost 2% of the entire world energy is used to create ammonia; making the process more efficient is great! But I have to say that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Lowering the production cost of such a basic article will ripple throughout many industries, lead to innovation or the possibility to use some old innovation that until now was unfeasible.

I am not a chemist, so my enthusiasm may be way off-base, but my gut feeling is that this improvement on a century old process will have a great and positive effect.

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I think you have heard of Elon Musk by now. If you haven't, confess and pray to the Church of Musk for forgiveness. Jokes aside, the guy is scarily awesome, so much, in fact, that I think he forgot how to fail, which is dangerous. His ideas, though, eerily mirror some of my own (he probably gets them from me, hmm). This post is about Musk's decision to publicize their Tesla patents and allow anyone to use the technology "in good faith". And I will argue that this is a kind of patent revolt which is just as significant as blogging.

A while ago I had these weird ideas and a lot of extra energy. It occurred to me that if I would invent some cool algorithm or think of a disruptively ingenious device I could patent it and make some money. As you know, I am not much of an entrepreneur (in fact, I am probably the antithesis of that) and so I asked some people how this patent thing works. I was amazed to learn of the huge amount of money required to file, the lack of security against rich competitors who would really want to take your idea without paying and so on and so on. I was more than amazed, I was angry. As I saw it, the system was created so only people having rich investors on their side could even begin to patent something. Otherwise, if you just want to claim the ownership of an idea, you have to pay a lot of money before you even begin planning to use your idea to make them. Banks would win. Again. Poor and brilliant scientists and technicians would lose. Again.

But then I heard about this principle that if I have an idea and publish it somewhere, I can't patent it anymore. The trick is that no one else can, either. Practically, whenever I have an idea, if I put it on my blog I ensure people will be able to use it without it being patented by some asshole. They can still change it into something else and patent that, but they can never stop you using the idea in the form that was published. So I do that whenever I can. Not that I have so many patent worthy ideas, but if I think something is useful enough, I put it out there to spite a system that was corrupted in order for capital rich organizations to be able to hold control over new ideas.

Enter Elon Musk. He just took a lot of the technological effort that he invested in for Tesla and made it public. It's not completely free, it's still their patent, but they pledge to leave you alone if you use it in a reasonable way. Of course, there is a catch, Musk is investing heavily in electric car battery manufacturing, so it is still in his best interest for other people to start building electric cars. But I honestly think he is finding solutions that benefit the world and also increase his options, instead of the other way around. Do you see the similarity in the idea, though? Instead of expecting lawmakers to reform patent law, you just circumvent the whole system by making your idea publicly available. It helps to previously invest in support systems for that tech, too. It's a deceptively simple idea, the equivalent of inventing steam engine, letting everybody know how to make one, while previously investing in coal.

In software development, you can sort of do that same thing. First of all, have an awesome idea, implement it, make it freely available for use and publish it in your blog. This seems like a very altruistic thing to do, maybe even naive, but think about your life afterwards. People will know your name, employers would separate you from the crowd of wannabe programmers. In a weird way, it is the equivalent of branding yourself, that personal marketing skill that most technicians lack completely, but translated in code. A form of "pay it forward", perhaps. The reason why this works is that the cost of sharing information is practically zero nowadays, while the information itself is generating informational capital linked to your person as the inventor. And in turn, this fame, the kudos, is translated into trust which turns into credit because "you are good for it". I still don't have it clear in my head, but I feel the system changing from the cash printed by governments, essentially IOUs for that government from the public, to a more diverse offer. It would still be credit, but based on idea capital, not gold in banks. Worth a thought.

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I tried to find a title with more impact than the title of the original article to express my combination of amusement and disdain; I couldn't. It says almost everything. Apparently, the reason why the nuke codes were reset was that US Strategic Command generals almost immediately had the PAL codes all reset to 00000000 to ensure that the missiles were ready for use regardless of whether the president was available to give authorization.. How insane is that? On the other hand, there is a positive side to all this: it goes to show that you are just as intelligent as an US general when you leave your phone PIN to the default 0000.

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In a recent news article I've read that Bradley Manning has received a 35 years prison sentence. I can't even begin to understand how to feel about this. On one hand, he was a member of an organisation that specifically prohibited what he has done. On the other hand, the same organisation was swearing to anyone having ears that it doesn't do what Manning revealed they did. The multiple levels of "law" that are apparent both in this case and the Edward Snowden case are sure to make even jurists scratch their heads. In cases where some guy is arrested based on a secret law, incarcerated and pretty much tortured in a secret prison then sentenced by a secret court, it all seems like an alternate reality. We've had people close their web businesses, then declaring they can't discuss why they did it because it would be illegal. Please feel free to read the links above, although that may well put you in a special category for US surveillance, for all I know. (OK, let's not be mean!)

The thing with Manning, though, is that he was a mere private, a kid. By the accounts revealed in the court, he was the product of an alcoholic mother and had gender identity issues, as well. He revealed some information (I will be discussing that in a moment), then he was pretty much caught and incarcerated. Do pay attention to the last paragraphs of the Ars Technica article on his sentencing:
During one period of his pretrial incarceration, Manning's clothing was confiscated every night, and he was then forced to stand for inspection by guards while naked. He was also prevented from sleeping between 5am and 8pm and not allowed to have sheets on his bed.
. Then they sentence to guy to 35 years in prison, maybe he can get out in 8 if he "behaves well". This is the story of a screwed up kid with a conscience that now gets even more screwed up. Of course, there is the possibility that he gets out of prison, writes a book, sells the movie rights and becomes a rich hero of the masses...

Then there is the extent of the information he leaked, information that was then published by another entity, Wikileaks, which at least in theory should have restricted publishing any material that exposed specific people to harm. Wikileaks continues to do well, just as the news outlets that published information like this from Manning and Snowden (arguably harassed by governments, but still in business), which for me makes no sense, since that should mean the publishing of those articles is legal. So the only illegal thing these guys did was give information that is legal to publish to publishing entities. It is hard to see this as anything else than punishing people for telling on you. I see it like a bad teacher beating children who told on him to their parents, bureaucratic institutions that are flexing their muscles when being confronted with even the idea of oversight. Can anyone explain to me how this is different?

Now, obviously the upbringing and psychology of the guy leaking government information shouldn't even be on the table here. What we should be discussing is what is reported in those leaks and what the effect on the people (and their serving government) is. However, that is way over my head. I can read reports of torture of an American private by Americans and be flabbergasted, I can feel disgust when watching the video of a helicopter pilot shooting dead a dozen people kilometres away because he thinks he sees an RPG, and they are actually reporters with a camera, but there are a lot of documents that were leaked, from foreign diplomacy and espionage on allies to reports of wrongdoings by army and intelligence entities. I can't claim to know enough about this stuff to make a statement, but as far as I can see, nobody really appears to know enough about this. It seems like the little government oversight we expect as people was missing to begin with. And that is what worries me. Stop making examples out of people who come forward with untoward things because you can't adapt to the reality of the people who hired you!

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Apparently it is the week of eulogies on my blog. Neil Armstrong died on August the 25th. You may remember him: he was the guy that first stepped on the Moon. I didn't know the guy, other people say he was inspiring, a great person and other things like that. A good emotional blog post you can read at the Bad Astronomy site.

But I think that his death, at 82 years of age, is less relevant than the fact we stopped going to the Moon. From the dirty dozen that walked on a space body other than Earth, only 8 remain alive and they are, without exception, born in the early 1930s, so all around 80 years old. Depending on many factors that usually cancel out, these people have around a decade of life left in them, so expect that in 10 years or less we will have no man on Earth that went anywhere else. The death of the last man to have walked on the Moon would be even sadder than Neil's.

That's not only romantically ugly, emotionally wrong, it is plain stupid. It's like we close our senses, humanity as a whole, to the options we have, to the alternatives laid out right in front of us. We act like those retarded tourists that go to an exotic location only once in their life and they return with "Meh! No one spoke English, I didn't have the guts to try the food and the service was crap". Forget the accounting bottom lines and the terribilistic "We gotta stop putting our eggs in a single basket", just think that in a few years we, as the human race, we'll have forgotten what it is like to step on the Moon, the experience gone from our collective memory. We will just sit there, on the bloody couch, counting our money and looking at the picture of the imprint of Neil Amstrong's foot, a simple postcard to replace memories lost.

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Of course that when an international celebrity, a man who touched the lives of many, a loved friend and movie person dies, I make it all about me. But you see, I can't not feel guilty, as I believe I am at to blame for Tony Scott's death.

I have long known that I am part of the long tail, that part of humanity that is forever ignored and shunned as a bunch of individually strange mutants with odd tastes that can't appreciate the world and can't be appreciated by the majority of other homo sapiens (or even each other). But it goes much farther and creepier than this.

When I like a restaurant or bar, it closes down immediately. If I think a particular location is quaint and pleasant it is immediately assaulted and raped by supermarket and hotel chains. If I enjoy using a line of bus or tramway, it gets redirected or work starts on it and never ends. If I like a movie, it never gets sequels (or prequels or parallel stories or spin-offs or any kind of remake). If I like a TV series, it promptly gets cancelled, sometimes in mid season even when the rest of the episodes have already been filmed and montaged. And, of course, if I like an actor or a director, they die. It is a fact of life. I liked Tony Scott, I enjoyed his creations, so he had to die.

Funny thing is, I've enjoyed Scott's movie creations without caring that he did the work, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, The Last Boyscout, Enemy of the State, to name a few. I only noticed him in TV series, having worked together with his brother Ridley on some of the best shows there are out there. Even if the plot was about the usual stuff, like police procedure or lawyers or whatever, the shows always had that human dimension that made you feel like you are watching real people living their life. Numb3rs and The Good Wife enter this category. And I said "Tony and Ridley Scott make the best TV shows!". That was my mistake and now Tony is dead.

"Why Tony?", you may ask. There is an answer to this, too. I really, really, really hated what Ridley Scott did to Prometheus, thus ensuring a healthy and long lived franchise and dooming poor Tony.

Now, about Tony Scott and the feelings that his work and his death evoked to normal people, even if I knew anything about it, I couldn't write it better than the guys at The Horror Club. Sorry M'Hael, it was me!

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All this opposition to these new American laws that are being discussed SOPA and PIPA has become a kind of spam that covers the real issue of what these laws are all about. Certainly there is nothing in the title that says anything remotely useful. Here is a TED talk lasting only 13 minutes that explains what is what:


Also, you might be interested in one of our own Romanian comics, Pidjin, who are explaining it nicely in graphical form. They are very funny and inspired in general, but the SOPA bit was brilliant.

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I've previously written about Pioneer One, the show that is produced almost entirely from donations and is distributed free on the Internet. Its first season contains 6 episodes and I have just finished watching it. As I was saying before, the series is cheap as dirt, but people have managed to use an intriguing story and ingenuity to make a decent production that I enjoyed watching.

Not only I love the idea of these "free" movies, where people actually make the effort to pay only if they liked them (and are that kind of people), but I see it as a seed for greater things. On their site, the people at Pioneer One are promising a second season, this time financed by sponsors that would have liked the first. It is an interesting hybrid that is being born: a crowd-sourced first season, that people must like or it wouldn't happen in the first place, and a more classical method of financing the rest, but based on that first bit of work. No one will escalate it to intergalactic space wars with lots of special effects. Like a film production with a soul.

I am looking forward to what they will do next, both heroes of the series and makers, heroes in their own way.

Update February 2016: Well, They have released a "webisode", which means they didn't quite manage to get the sponsors or something else happened. Just in case they do anything, you might want to subscribe to the Pioneer One YouTube channel.